Fatality from working with unguarded plant

An alert about the risks associated with operating plant with inadequate guarding, following the death of a worker operating a hay bale pressing machine.
Safety alert published

Wednesday 14 Apr 2021

Industries and topics
  • Agriculture
  • Manufacturing
  • Plant hazards


Recently a worker was fatally injured when operating a hay bale pressing machine. 

Safety issues

The risk of entanglement or crush injuries are significantly increased when the guarding on plant is missing, broken, has been removed or is not adequately secured.

This risk is increased if loose clothing, hair, personal protective equipment or other accessories such as tool belts become entangled and pull the person towards the moving parts of the plant.

Recommended ways to control risks

Risk assessment

Perform a risk assessment to identify all hazards and assess the adequacy of available control measures on moving and rotating plant.

Prevent access to danger points and moving parts

Ensure guards are fitted to prevent access to any moving parts and nip points (points where rotating or reciprocating parts move toward each other).

Older machinery and equipment may not have guarding fitted as standard. Guarding should be retrofitted to prevent access to:

  • hard surfaces moving together (presses)
  • rotating end drums of belt conveyors
  • moving augers or auger conveyors
  • rotating shafts
  • moving parts that do not require regular adjustment
  • machine transmissions, such as pulley and belt drives, chain drives and exposed drive gears
  • any dangerous moving parts or plant

Where guarding is used as a control measure, interlocks form an important part of the guarding to ensure the plant is unable to operate without the guarding correctly in place.

Where access to the moving part is not necessary for tasks such as servicing, maintenance or cleaning, the guarding must be permanently fixed, so far as is reasonably practicable. A fixed guard can be permanently applied by bonding agent, welding or securing with one-way screws. A permanently fixed physical barrier provides the highest level of protection against hazards.

When moving parts have to be accessed

When accessing a moving part for tasks such as servicing, maintenance or cleaning:

  • ensure the plant is shut down and keys are removed or use a lock out/tag out system before removing guarding to undertake the tasks
  • allow for plant stored energy and run down time before commencing the work
  • inspect guards for damage and repair and replace all guards before re-energising and starting up the plant

Pre-operation inspections

Ensure pre-task inspections of plant include checking for adequate guarding where applicable.

Information, instruction, training and supervision

  • Provide employees with information, instruction and training on how to identify hazards associated with moving and rotating plant and how to safely operate plant and how to control risk.
  • Regularly review operating procedures, including lock out and tag out systems when undertaking service, cleaning and maintenance.
  • Provide regular toolbox meetings and maintain adequate warning signs as a constant reminder to employees of the potential hazards associated with plant.

Legal duties

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, employers must:

  • so far as is reasonably practicable, provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of employees and independent contractors
  • provide or maintain plant or systems of work that are safe and without risks to health, so far as is reasonably practicable
  • make arrangements for ensuring, so far as is reasonably practicable, safety and the absence of risks to health in connection with the use, handling, storage or transport of plant 
  • provide employees with the necessary information, instruction, training or supervision to enable them to do their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health
  • ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that people other than employees are not exposed to risks to their health or safety arising from the employer's conduct

Employers and self-employed persons have additional duties under the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 associated with the use of plant, including:

  • identifying all hazards associated with the use of plant at the workplace, so far as is reasonably practicable, and
  • controlling risks in accordance with the plant hierarchy of control

Employer duties also apply where some specific risk controls are used, for example, guarding. For more information on these duties see the Plant compliance code.